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Why not the best?

"I believe excellence is not reserved for extraordinary people, but rather is the virtue of ordinary people who cheerfully do common things extraordinarily well."

This quote, attributed to the president of Arkansas' Associated Management Company, sets the idealistic tone needed to enhance employee excellence. Performance must be acknowledged as a virtue, just as kindness, integrity, generosity, compassion, diligence, and other remarkable qualities are accepted as virtuous traits.

It is our challenge as leaders to seek out effective means of improving the performance of our personnel, while at the same time protecting this improvement from deterioration. Employee excellence can and will crumble from our neglect. If we allow our efforts to become stale or to lose luster, the employee is put at risk and could slip from excellence.

Willa A. Foster once said: Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives "

There are several methods of increasing employee productivity. In this writing I will list only five. These five, however, I have witnessed personally and found to be exceptional.

One method used advantageously by Walt Disney is a concept referred to as key results area" (KRA). In KRAs purest application, motivated employees are invited as a group to simply spend hours dreaming. A group leader targets a company topic, for example marketing, and the group engages in a positive discussion of new approaches and ideas. The prevailing rule of thumb is to avoid criticism at all cost. You must accept every idea as a good idea.

The process is repeated time and time again, as the group leader periodically changes topics. After the dream phase is completed, all ideas are transferred to a categorized master list. This list is then sent to a select KRA committee for a detailed study and recommendation.

A wonderful synergy between the employees will develop from this process. More importantly, the employees begin to feel as if they are a significant part of the organization, especially when one of their ideas actually becomes policy.

A second method is to offer appropriate ongoing training to your employees. I sincerely believe that each of us are what we repeatedly do; therefore, excellence is not a gift, but habit. If this method is implemented, it must be remembered that it will require a commitment from you as the leader.

Ongoing training is an important, but time-consuming process. There is always a natural tendency of lapsing sessions when time and subject matter are short. A total commitment must be invested; anything less is a terrible waste of opportunity.

One way of committing to a training program is to design levels of training that coincide with employee longevity and job description. In-house designations could be created to serve as accomplishment insignia. The employees will be able to measure their own progression not only by actual accomplishment, but also by public recognition.

A third method is as simple as physical fitness. Study after study has shown that physically active employees enjoy a higher energy level, are more creative, and miss fewer work days than those that are not.

As the leader, you could open negotiations with a local health club. The goal here is to secure a significant discount for your employees. Another avenue is to sponsor sports league teams such as softball, flag football, bowling, or volleyball. Employees could be outfitted with caps and jerseys sporting the firm's name and logo.

A fourth method is to develop a realistic reward system. I would encourage you to look past the typical leasing commission and annual bonus system. Why not recognize the marvelous accomplishments that often go by unnoticed? For example, why not recognize long-term employees in public for their years of diligent service? A unique accomplishment could be acknowledged through an employee-of-the-month program. Outstanding multifamily leasing agents could be inducted into the "2,000 Leases and Counting" Club.

The bottom line is that each of us is really in a position to monitor such dedication, so why not take a moment to simply say, "Thank you."

The final method of improving employee performance is in my opinion the most important. There can be no greater form of employee inspiration nor finer motivational style than that of leadership by example.

The criteria of good leadership are endless. Promise no more than you can deliver, and then deliver all that you promise. Practice strict loyalty, and expect the same level of loyalty from all personnel-loyalty to the management firm, to the property, to the supervisors, to the field staff, and to everyone associated with the organization.

Do not embarrass or criticize an employee in public; you will never build a close-knit team with such a menacing management style. Work hard because it is essential, and there is no other way. Strive for perfection in all parts of your life.

The suggestions presented in this article may not require a significant financial investment, but each does carry a unique price tag. The price is a total commitment to bringing out the best in each of your employees. You must be prepared to demand excellence from yourself. This will require a fundamental dedication and a burning desire to build a quality team of winners.

If better is possible, then good is not enough.
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Title Annotation:employee performance
Author:Freeland, James W.
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:May 1, 1990
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